Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hallmark would be proud...

I thought and thought for weeks about what to do for Kevin for Valentine’s Day. I wanted to do something for him that expresses how much I love him and fits in our budget (which is invisible so that was hard). I already cook him nice dinners, do his laundry, and say ‘I love you’, and these are all the lame things coming to mind.
I decided to think harder.

I thought about writing sexy messages in the mirror and wearing skimpy lingerie, sticking romantic notes in his wallet and giving him a massage. I thought about getting a babysitter and making a candlelit dinner followed by dessert in bed. I thought about going on a hike, cleaning out his truck or painting him a picture. I googled ‘romantic ideas’ and read about all the ways to “wow your husband on Valentine’s Day” when it hit me.

These are things I should be doing for him anyways. Kevin deserves to feel loved, to be ‘wowed’, everyday. Love is demonstrated. Love unexpressed isn’t love at all. I was horrified. I love that man than any living person on this planet (well he's neck and neck with Lila) and I never want him to doubt that for a second. I watch him all the time and think how sexy he looks when he comes home from work, or how joyful I am when I wake up and Kevin and Lila are sitting together on the couch reading the Bible, so I can get a few more minutes of sleep. The world feels manageable when he is here. He is constantly making me feel mushy, without even knowing it. I never understood those couples who got married, had kids and let their love lives die...Until I got married, had a baby and let my love life die. Whoops. Something must be done. I read 1 Corinthians 13, sort of the go-to manual on the subject of love.

"Love is patient (whoops), love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish (whoops); is not provoked (whooooooops); does not keep records of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." 1 Cor 13:4-8

Over the last year, I have watched my husband transform into a strong, faithful, man of God and it has been such a privilege. I am so proud of him. He inspires me. He is the kind of man that I want Lila to meet someday. I have no doubt that he will be the father that she deserves and more. I am so thankful for his love despite the ugly past I’ve brought into our marriage. His unconditional love has healed my heart. God is so incredibly good and I am so indescribably grateful. This man deserves the love described in chapter 13.

So for Valentine's Day this year, along with freaky pink oatmeal & heart shaped toast, a homemade sourdough starter, gift card and a surprise trip to the movies, I vowed to never let the romance die between us. No matter what is going on in life, I will make sure that he feels loved. No matter how busy, how tired, how distracted I am, Kevin will always know that I think he is the sexiest, strongest man alive. (Edward Cullen is fiction so he doesn’t count as competition.)  And as I sign of my everlasting love for him, I gave him permission to hunt and kill my cat, Stewart.

Just kidding. But seriously, it is one of the most important vows I'll ever make. Right behind, "I, Krista, take you Kevin, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, 'till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Every party has a pooper...

Well, it's official. Kevin and I are those people. We stopped drinking. Bah humbug.
I could list a hundred reasons off the top of my head why I believe that alcohol has no real benefits, however, I will spare you this torture. Instead, I will tell you why it was a necessary choice for us.

We surrendered our lives to Christ and along with our lives, our stumbling blocks. (If you remember, goodbye TV and facebook). We gave God permission to use us as He sees fit. We asked Him to makes changes and corrections as necessary to be most effective for furthering His kingdom.

"equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever." Hebrews 13:21

"All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." 2 Tim 3:16-17

As many of you know, we feel as though God has laid it on our hearts to start a Christian school in the Cle Elum/Roslyn area. If any personal behavior on our parts were to jeopardize this project, we would be devastated. This is what sparked the decision, however, I believe it was a long time coming.

It is no secret that I liked to party. This was at the core of every seriously, bad decision I've ever made. After many years, I learned to associate 'fun' with alcohol. Things like camping, football and going to the lake were only fun if you could drink beer. As it turned out, while pregnant with Lila, I lost my affection for many of these activities. (That very well could have been the constant nausea or the extra forty lbs also.) As God has taken my heart back, I've lost the urge to feel drunk. I find it horrifying, actually. It's happened a couple times in the last 6 months and I've felt the deepest regret. Kevin and I stuck to our 'one glass' rule for the most part and I rather enjoyed the occasional glass of wine with dinner or the necessary CatchPhrase beer. As humbling as it is to admit, I struggled with sticking to just one. This is when I started to realize that there was a problem.

I discussed my decision to quit drinking with my Mom who I assumed would think this choice, a radical one. She always taught me that extremes are dangerous and the key was self-control and balance. She thought giving up drinking was wise. This was exercising self-control. Neither of my parents drank in front of my brother and I until we were in high school. I never thought to make the association, but she informs me that alcoholism runs in both sides of my biological families. When I got home, I decided to do a little research.

"A study in Sweden followed alcohol use in twins who were adopted as children and reared apart. The incidence of alcoholism was slightly higher among people who were exposed to alcoholism only through their adoptive families. However, it was dramatically higher among the twins whose biological fathers were alcoholics, regardless of the presence of alcoholism in their adoptive families."

"However, other researchers have argued that the scenario of inheritance is more complex, and what is inherited is a mix of personality traits, such as those related to antisocial behavior, rather than alcoholism itself (27). Genes might play a direct role in the development of alcoholism, as in affecting the body's metabolism of alcohol; or they might play a less direct role, influencing a person's temperament or personality in such a way that the person becomes vulnerable to alcoholism."

"If a person's risk of developing alcoholism is 60% determined by his or her genetics and 40% caused by his or her environment, it is asserted that the problem of alcohol addiction can be addressed from both genetic and environmental frameworks. Indeed, by using a "proactive" problem solving approach, the genetics part of the problem frequently can be eliminated. Furthermore, by focusing on various situational and behavioral factors, the environmental dynamics that help establish and reinforce alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be significantly reduced."

So in a nutshell, scientists are pretty sure. They don't know whether there's actually an "alcoholism gene" or just genetic personality traits that make you vulnerable, either way, you're exactly that...VULNERABLE! It's probably best not to take any more chances. The odds are not stacked in my favor. Now I'm not saying that I will never toast at a wedding, or enjoy a glass of wine with my husband on a weekend getaway ever again...but I may not too. We will see.

My sweet, saint-like husband, is done drinking too (although he never had an issue) but I have a sneaking suspicion it might be a moral support thing. Not that he'd ever admit it. Kevin says that if it is ever a struggle for me, I can always get pregnant again.
How thoughtful.

Now I am not saying that I think everyone who drinks is sinning. I just know that it is not a good choice for me. Although admitting to this problem is embarrassing, there is a certain amount of inevitable accountability that comes with waving your dirty laundry in front of the entire cyber-neighborhood. If my behavior is ever questionable, please talk to me. And my friends, if you close your eyes and bow your head to pray at church on Sunday morning and feel like you're spinning, I urge you to consider praying for strength. God ALWAYS answers. 

"Be Sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world. Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little."
1 Peter 5:8-10

Okay, okay, I get it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Modern Day Moses

When you fully surrender your life to the Lord, things start to move quickly. Really, light-speed, much-too-fast-at-times, quickly.

Every time I drive to Ellensburg (30 minutes east of Cle Elum) to go to Fred Meyer or the doctor, I see Valley Christian School, which has been closed as long as I've lived here. There is a big 'For Sale' sign out front. Cle Elum only has one public school and it's not what we want for our family so when I found out I was pregnant, (which meant I drove by A LOT to go to the doctor) I would fervently pray for God to let someone buy the school, so my babies could attend when they're older.
About a month ago, I heard that pesky little voice say, "You need to do it." Really?! Yikes.
I came home and told Kevin what I thought God was asking of me. He calmly looked at me like I was nuts and said, "Alright." I told him that we will probably go broke. He said, "We already are." He suggested I talk to our Pastor. If any of you know our Pastor, Ron Vanlandingham, you know that he is one of the most genuine, hard-working, supportive people in the world. He stopped by for coffee the next morning (Coincidence? I think not.) and I dropped the bomb.
"I think God is telling me to start a Christian school. Am I crazy?"
He says, "What can I do? You can use the church to get started."

Around the first of the year, I started reading the Bible from the beginning. I have made it through Genesis and Exodus. I never liked the Old Testament before. I guess I thought it was boring, or scary or something. Now it is like a Twilight book that I can't put down.
Yes, I just said that.
It talks about ordinary people who have extraordinary faith in God. He gives them these seemingly impossibly tasks and through their faith in Him, they accomplish incredible things. Another coincidence? I don't think so.
It absolutely amazes me how the Lord is in control of everything. From laying this on my heart to my Pastor stopping by to reading Genesis and Exodus. It was not just luck that I read stories about Noah obeying the Lord and as a result, saving mankind! Or Joseph, who went from being a slave to a king. That was ALL God. He was preparing me. Something that really encouraged me is the story of Moses.

In the book of Exodus, God says, “The Israelites cry for help has come to Me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses asked God, ‘Who am I that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He answered, ‘I will certainly be with you’ […](Ex. 3:9-12)

After leading the people out of slavery, they became trapped in the wilderness with an army behind them and the ocean in front. They were afraid and cried out but Moses had faith.

“Moses said to the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet” Exodus 14:13-14

He had faith that God would work out the details. Big and small. God parted the Red Sea and the Israelites crossed on dry ground.

Alright, by now I'm starting to realize that I have no excuses. God uses totally ordinary people to bring glory to His kingdom. In fact, doing God's will is the sole purpose for my creation. Wow. It really isn't all about me. Dang.
It was time to start making something happen. If God can part the Red Sea, we can start a little Christian school. 
I started by googling "How to start a Christian School?" Seriously. There are manuals.
After finding one I liked, I started following the steps. I spoke with founders of other schools, started asking around, brainstorming mission statements, scheduling the first public meeting and praying my brains out. I need to figure out what the Lord wants this school to look like. So far, this is what I know:

It needs to teach secular subjects from a Biblical perspective.
These kids need to learn scripture so they are equipped to defend and disciple when they go into the world.
That although you may not like someone, you MUST love them and treat them with kindness. That ‘mean girls’ and bullies are NOT ACCEPTABLE. Love the unlovely.
The teachers, who are basically missionaries, have the important task of training students morally as well as academically. For example: “Lila is struggling with pride at school. She is putting down some other students because she is better at reading. Perhaps you can emphasize humility at home.”
School standards need to be biblical, not worldly. Kids need to know that sex before marriage is not just personal preference. That disrespect towards authority is not just “normal teenager behavior” or that it’s not ok to intentionally leave out someone because they are different. 
These children need their innocence protected as long as possible. Especially these little girls!
We know that it needs to be a warm, cozy place in our community where love flows in and out. A place that reaches out to the people around us. A light in the darkness.

 Most importantly, we’re not trying to create a sterile bubble for Lila. It says in Luke…
Luke 14:12-14)
I feel very strongly that God is telling us to start a discipleship school. This means  it is open to everyone and anyone regardless of their faith. I also believe it needs to be affordable. No one should be turned away based on their financial status. You shouldn't have to pay tons of money to learn about Jesus.

And so this bring us to today. The first public meeting is scheduled for January 26th. I am terrified. But I have no doubt that if God can raise the dead, and change my heart from a wild-child to a Jesus freak, He can make this school happen with His eyes closed and one arm tied behind his back. I have absolute faith that the Lord will send us the right people and provide the means to start a school where kids are told that above all else, God loves them as His own and has a unique plan for their lives.
Now, how can you go wrong with that?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Orange Dinner

On New Years Day, we decided to throw a little, last minute surprise birthday party for our dear friend, Ally. We invited some friends and family and made dinner. Everything was orange because this is her favorite color. Sweet potato mashers, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf (which stayed brown), and orange cupcakes. Everyone trickles in, one by one, two by two and all slowly realize that, GASP, we have no TV. Well there goes Sunday Night Football.

When we remodeled our house this summer, we wired extra outlets, seven feet up the wall, for a flat screen TV. Obviously, who wouldn't design their living room around the flat screen? That is absolutely normal. Then when we moved in, God told us to get rid of TV all together. It was so sad at first. On the bright side, now I have a handy place to put my Glade plug-in air-fresheners, seven feet off the ground, where Lila can't reach them. That's a custom house.
Well as a result, Kevin and I read. We talk. We pay attention to Lila instead of zoning out. We have dinner at the table. It has given us so much time together that used to go mysteriously missing. We would wonder things like, "why isn't our marriage growing?" or "why am I annoyed when Lila talks to herself on a volume reserved for only for megaphones and pterodactyls?" 
Because I would rather watch TV. I'm "relaxing". I'd rather not think. Or get up. I would rather watch some other life, than submit mine to God.

So as the guests of our orange dinner adjusted to the fact that they are going to have to converse with one another, guess what? They did. We ate dinner, drank wine and played board games, aggressively at times, and laughed and talked. We all smashed in the living room together and told stories. There wasn't the usual 'guys in the living room, watching TV', 'girls in the kitchen because they're talking too loud' divide. It was really fun.

You learn to be creative when you have less options and as a result, enjoy the fruits of your labor more. I have learned that this applies as a parent too. When Lila has a couple toys and a blanket to lay on, and no mama or cat or fancy contraption to entertain her, she has to come up with something else to do. This usually results in learning a new trick which gives her immense pleasure. Thanks to blanket time, Lila started rolling and scooting around. Thanks to the lack of TV, I started painting again. Kevin has been working out and as a result, his back is hurting him less. (I should probably start working out too but I'd rather paint with a sore back.)

God has totally rewarded our so-called 'sacrifice' with daily life that is so much more satisfying. Now reading the bible is relaxing. Praying gives me peace.  Talking with Kevin challenges me. Painting and writing bring me joy. Watching Lila chase the cat in her cruiser is my very own comedy channel. Seriously, kids are so funny. 

"Even more, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed!" Luke 11:28.

Logically, we know that God has our best interests in mind all the time. We know that our obedience will result in abundant life.

Funny that we don't listen to Him more, huh?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

So now I'm hearing voices...

So you know who I am. Now I want to tell you a little about what’s been happening…
You know that little voice inside your head that prompts you? “Go talk to that awkward girl”, or “Slow down around this corner”, and “You don’t need to spend money on that”, etcetera. Well 60 days ago, while on Facebook for the 17th time in 3 hours, I was prompted. The voice said, “This is a problem for you”. So I put my iPhone down and went out to watch TV. “This is a problem too”, said the voice. I was not a big fan of the voice at this point. I flipped off the TV and grabbed a book. I started reading a Max Lucado book I’d picked up at a garage sale, months earlier. It was called, God Came Near. And it rocked my world.

I learned about who Jesus was. I learned about God’s glorious amnesia when you ask for forgiveness. I read about heaven. I saw the life I want to offer my daughter, filled with the grace of a loving Savior. I saw an abundant life.

I decided to go on a 60 day Facebook and cable TV sabbatical. I came to the conclusion that if I prayed every time I wanted to check my facebook and read my bible every time I wanted to watch TV…my life would look completely different. I was in need of a serious Jesus-brainwashing. I realized that addictions and stumbling blocks don’t always have to be socially unacceptable. I was stumbling over social media. Let’s be real, I was falling flat on my face.

I would check my Facebook while I nursed my daughter instead of talking to her and praying for her. I would be watching TV when my husband got home from work and wouldn’t even get up to greet him. We would play on our smart phones in bed and then roll over and go to sleep without a word. I was addicted to these things. They had become a dependency. My life seemed dull without them. I still managed to accomplish what needed to be done in my day, but never more. I would take pictures of our baby, post them and check every 5 minutes to see what people said. This is prideful and self-loving. This is wrong. If I spent 1 episode of “What not to Wear” a day, volunteering somewhere, imagine the difference I could make.

The little voice kept saying “garbage in, garbage out”. Criminal Minds has made me genuinely paranoid. The real estate channel made me want a fancier house. BET made me want to be a rapper. I’m kidding. But seriously, do I want Lila watching commercials every 10 minutes about sex, alcohol and being rich? For that matter, do I? This is the social norm in America and there’s nothing wrong with normal, right? But as a Christian, I am not supposed to be normal. I am set aside to be used by God. I am in the world, but not of the world. I was created to do God’s will.

With my mind clear from the distractions of Facebook and TV, I am able to hear the Holy Spirit. The little voice prompts me with purpose and direction. And it happens often. More often than I am comfortable with, even. I am seeing the glory of God in everyday things. I am being used. I am blown away by Him.

There is another little voice that is not so pleasant. It is the voice that tells me “People are going to think you are a hypocrite”, “People aren’t going to want to hang out with you anymore” and “Once a cheater, always a cheater”. I was a party girl. Not the glamorous Ke$ha type…just a sad, lost, pathetic, lonely girl. This nasty voice has been around a lot lately. There was a time in my life when I forgot whose child I was. I dishonored my parents and my Savior. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and let me tell you, the grass is not greener on the other side. It is covered in dog crap and land mines. Fortunately, God led me back. He carried me through the shame. He was faithful, when I was not. And he forgave me and forgot. So mean voice in my head, you’d better eat your Wheaties because it’s on. I am going to tell the world about Jesus. I have an indescribably awesome God to serve.

Well, the 60 days are up and we have made some crazy changes to our everyday lives. We are in the middle of a butt-kicking bible-study, excitedly reading the bible and volunteering in the community. We’ve even stopped listening to secular music around the house, only playing hymns and classical music. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

More to come…

A little about myself..

Let me tell you what I am trying to do - I am trying to change things around here. (I use 'here' loosely as it means anywhere from my heart to my home to my community, and beyond.) But before I do that, let me tell you a little about myself:

I am in my mid-twenties, married to my true love and mother to six-month-old Lila Rose. I went to a private, Christian high school and did well but never graduated from college. Instead, I developed a serious love for cooking and baking so I worked in a cafe for many years. Now I am blessed to be able to stay at home with Lila. I live in a little town, roughly three thousand people, in central Washington. There are some limitations - only having the Edge network on my iPhone - for example, is highly irritating, but overall, it is wonderful. I spend my free time gardening, cooking, using any excuse to make cupcakes, painting, chasing my cat around the house (yes, you read right...I am a cat person and I'm not ashamed. My husband is ashamed.), making greeting cards, reading, and other old-personish things. My husband , Kevin, served our country for five years in the U.S.M.C. I am so proud of him and I am so grateful to live in the land of the free. I believe that America was built on biblical principals. I use cloth diapers and make baby food and try to always use 'green' products although honestly, the whole movement sort of bothers me. If the large corporations had any integrity (a concept seemingly lost to America today), there would be no reason to shop organic or green. Don't get me started about that. Moving on. We try our hardest to never use credit, buy our cars in cash and tithe before we pay bills, not after. But as it is for most people, money is never ending battle. My husband idolizes Dave Ramsey which is both awesome and annoying, depending on my mood. I listen to country music, like to have a beer or two on occasion, love playing board games, watching TV, and going car camping in the woods by our house. I drink WAY too much coffee. We have amazing families and they are both here in town! This is SO cool. We attend church on Sundays and go to bible study and pray before dinner. We are in good health, make enough money, own our home, and love each other more than words can describe.  We are obviously blessed.
I couldn't ask for more. However, a couple months ago, I started to feel like perhaps, more could be asked of me. I am a lukewarm Christian. But I am normal!
God deserves more than what is considered normal. And realizing that is how this all began.